For Top Gear magazine’s 300th issue, we celebrated the best 50 cars over 299 issues: here’s our pick of the best small cars
Marc Newson is arguably the world’s most well-regarded product designer. He spends about half his time working for Apple, the rest on projects for clients like Louis Vuitton and Nike. He designed a piece of furniture – the Lockheed Lounge – that sold at auction in 2015 for £2.43m. He loves cars, but when I asked him to name a modern car he really admired, the answer was a long time coming. Finally, he replied. “What was that little Audi? I loved that.” The A2. It’s a very Marc Newson kind of car.
Audi was so far ahead of the curve with this one that the curve in question has yet to materialise. Audi’s ASF (aluminium spaceframe) tech first appeared on the A8 in the mid-Nineties, but deploying it in a car as tiddly as the A2 before the decade’s end really was something. The A2’s body weighed 43 per cent less than the equivalent in steel (it was just 895kg overall), and it had slippery aero numbers, too. It also had a tiny footprint on the road, and was more vertically oriented than horizontal.
It didn’t ride all that nicely, nor was it bulging with space inside, but there was room for four grown-ups and storage space in the rear footwell if needed. Had Audi millennial-ised the Mini? Nope. BMW did that, and with greater commercial success. The A2, like so many clever ideas, didn’t connect with the buying public. The virtues of weight-saving have always been a tough sell, and the A2’s unquestionable tech savvy turned out to be less appealing than the fact that you could order the Mini (we refuse to write MINI) with a Union Jack roof (and this is years before Nigel Farage arrived).